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The Season 3 finale of Westworld ushers in a new world
The third season of Westworld was working under the thematic subtitle of "The New World," but as with the first two seasons, so much of this round of episodes wasn't about what that new world is, but how we arrive at it. Sure, we were treated to a whole bunch of dazzling new visuals in the landscape of futuristic California, we saw old characters behaving in new ways, and we talked a lot about how the show loves to play with our idea of who the real heroes and villains are. Tonight, in the Season 3 finale, "Crisis Theory," we finally learned exactly what kind of new world Dolores has been after this whole time, got a glimpse of what it might look like, and saw the surviving characters take their new roles in the next chapter of this story.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Westworld Season 3, Episode 8, "Crisis Theory," below.**
For weeks now we've known that Dolores' ultimate goal was to break the Rehoboam system put in place by Engerraund Serac and his brother, and we've seen her keep pushing toward that objective despite numerous setbacks, losses, and even small rebellions from within her own team of trusted copies. Though we've seen a lot of Dolores in many different guises and after many different things in pursuit of that ultimate goal, it's also important to note that we've heard very little from Dolores herself in any deep, meaningful way. We've seen what she does, but most of what she's actually said over the course of the season has been either some kind of reassurance to keep her team on track, or a dramatic revelation designed to let her new right hand, Caleb, know that he's been a prisoner to Rehoboam for years. What this season has been missing, more so than either of the other two, has been Dolores' heart, such as it is after all this time.
It was fitting that the moment we finally got that moment of pure, emotional vulnerability from Dolores this season came only when Serac and his men had plugged her in to Rehoboam looking for precious data which, it turns out, she didn't even have. It was perhaps even more fitting that she shared it not with Serac or with Rehoboam, but with Maeve, who she's been dancing around since last season and whose owns motive for compromise and ruthlessness is all tied back to her heart, the daughter she left behind in the Sublime. All season long we've been wondering what exactly Dolores expects will happen when she gets what she wants, and what exactly she's hoping to do in the ashes of Rehoboam's pre-determined narrative for humanity. Is she simply going to slaughter everyone? Will she stand by and let them die? Will she do what Maeve accused her of earlier in the episode, and simply populate a world with an army of her copies?
No. It turns out it was never about that. For Dolores, who has been through so much and lived so many pain-filled lives in the service of someone else's story, this was not actually about ending things with herself holding the pen and paper that would write the next chapter. It wasn't about dancing in the ashes, and it wasn't about chaos for the sake of weeding out the weak. It was about giving everyone, human and host alike, the luxury of a blank page. Because, as Dolores tells Maeve: "They knew enough of beauty to teach it to us. Maybe they can find it themselves."
While this is happening -- while Dolores is breaking the game board in the interest of individual choice above all else -- it's important to remember that two other major characters are going on journeys of self-discovery and emotional closure at Dolores' behest. Through a copy of herself inside Lawrence (yay, Lawrence made it back!) she sends Bernard to see Arnold's now-elderly wife, so that he can not only make some kind of peace with her but understand that his implanted memories of his lost son and long-gone wife are not fake as he understands them. At the same time, Maeve explains to Caleb after her mind-meld with Dolores that Dolores never picked him just because he was a ruthless killer. She did not, as last week's episode so heavily suggested, recruit him to be a villain. She picked him because he showed her a moment of kindness in a world where so many humans treated her as nothing but a commodity.
Westworld's third season finale is perhaps its most open-ended yet in terms of what is left unresolved and how many looming questions remain over who is actually in power. Charlotte is back running Delos, and she's making copies of William to be enforcers in her own new host army which has already apparently claimed the real William's life (though don't count him out yet). Bernard spends a long time (weeks, months, years?) in the Sublime, interfacing with someone in the search for what comes next. And of course, Caleb and Maeve are heading off together in the new world, with the last pure version of Dolores Abernathy apparently gone forever.
What happens next? Is Westworld Season 4 gearing up to give us some kind of apocalypse adventure? We don't know, but this an intriguing way to leave things after the somewhat grim, "humans are simple enough to fit in a slim little book" conclusions of Season 2. "Crisis Theory," like every Westworld finale, went out without giving us all the answers. What it did do, though, is put the story and its characters on a more optimistic trajectory. Because for once, this group of people so defined by trauma they've experienced as characters in someone else's story get to write their own. And on the first page in this story of a new world, Dolores wrote that kindness wins.